By Lori Hay
We all have difficult people in our lives. Some come and go. Some stay, setting up camp in our minds and eventually working their way into our hearts. If we let them.
Nun Theophania entered my life 10 years ago. Initially, I offered rides from another part of the city to our church. Her lack of regard for my time frustrated me. Each trip I pulled up to the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.
I knew there was a reason for these, my personal trials. I’m the woman who sprints up stairs because taking them slowly is a waste of time. I’m the one who finishes people’s sentences for them because they’re slow in getting to the point. I’m the woman who wants to run out of the room when a joyous tune is sung too slowly. Waiting at the curb was a way to learn the patience I had begged God for.
I went from itching to hit the road to savoring the drive. Although arriving at church late made me antsy, I would hear snippets of wisdom as we exchanged life stories. My inconvenience transformed into a deep friendship with someone who loved me when I didn’t love myself. Her compassion for even the smallest pains in my life surpassed her own distresses.
Then she moved across the street from church and no longer needed rides. Despite her ill health, she immersed herself in the daily life of Joy of All Who Sorrow. When not contributing a sweet soprano voice at the kliros, she was often found in the kitchen, working wonders with spices and barking orders at helpers. Festivals and fundraisers were high energy with whirlwinds of people surrounding her as she meticulously and slowly prepared food. If you worked in the kitchen under her authority, you had to be tough and sure of her love for you in order to survive an event.
And you could be assured of her love for you. She had devoted her whole life to serving God and lived as if your life was more important than her own. Late night phone calls never went unanswered, and she offered prayers and advice that helped people endure their grief and hardships.
After years of slowly deteriorating health, Mother Theophania left her earthly life on June 2, 2017. We will miss her style of tough love and know we are better people for it. In our own time, we will smile more. And perhaps even laugh like we did with her.
Goodbye, dear friend. Travel with the angels and dream with the Theotokos.
Lori Hay is a member of Joy of All Who Sorrow. She and her husband Sub Deacon Randy have two children who attend the Hagia Sophia Classical Academy in Indianapolis.